From Cathedral, new Stadium in sight
Fans wistful, optimistic about exchanging the old for the new
NEW YORK -- Fans on Yankee Stadium's escalators hurried to their seats. Step by step, right-foot leap by left-foot leap, they anxiously moved toward the tiers that wouldn't wait for them past this weekend.
To the upper decks, to the "penthouse," as one woman put it, they exhibited the panic of one missed pitch turning into two.
Then, in between the levels -- curiously -- they stopped.
The gold-encrusted lettering in their field of view shot sunlight into their eyes. The white stone, reminiscent of "a marble coliseum," as one gentleman put it, stopped them in their tracks. Almost every one of them pulled out a camera, zoomed in, and took a picture of the new -- and the soon-to-be only -- Yankee Stadium.
Price tag: $1.3 billion and a move out of the current -- and soon to be non-existent -- Yankee Stadium. Often, the new building's shine attracts a childlike jaw-drop. And other times, the traditionalists shooed off the notion of abandoning the perch in which they viewed their team's alleged new "home."
"It's the history of it," Victor Ridern said in defense of the current Yankee Stadium. "You can't go over there and say Bath Ruth played there. I don't think they should get rid of this one."
Nobody can rob the meaning of the stone on which they stand, which will create anything but a clean break from the Cathedral. Newer doesn't necessarily translate into better in the eyes of some Yankee fans, especially one picture-taker, who packed his lens into his backpack and said, "Too much money."
Across the way, John Daneker posed in front of an outfield view for his wife Cindy's camera, reminiscing about coming to Yankees games with his father for 25 years. Glancing across the street, and circling back to view the current stadium, John Daneker has yet to fall prey to the new building's charm.
"Does it impress me? I think it's kind of sad that they are tearing the old place down," Daneker said. "They are definitely doing it right, building it like the old stadium, but it will never be like this place."
While Monument Park will move into the latest Yankee Stadium in 2009, it's impossible to relocate the nostalgia of World Series titles and Hall of Fame players. Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and others will remain attached to the old grounds. It was even rumored that some of those legends were buried under their plaques, joked fan Harold Skeete.
Monument Park inhabitants
|Miller Huggins 5/30/32|
|Lou Gehrig 7/4/41|
|Babe Ruth 4/19/49|
|Mickey Mantle 8/25/96|
|Joe DiMaggio 4/25/99|
|9/11 tribute 9/11/02|
|MONUMENT PARK PLAQUES|
|(in order of dedication)|
|Pope Paul VI|
|Pope John Paul II|
But he said that Yankees fans have to realize that new stars have blossomed before their eyes, such as Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams and Mariano Rivera. And more heroes will come. The mystique of yesteryear has not left; it has only reformed in recent triumphs.
"You think about all of the players, and at some point, these guys are going to be down there," Skeet said, envisioning "half of the '99 Yankees" with busts. "And then you realize, I am living through that period right now."
Still, the fans' memoirs cannot be bought by a pricey stone pillar. Michael Murphy, who was thrilled to squint through his glasses at a tiny digital picture of the white stones, still holds another Yankee Stadium photograph quite dear. It's an image of Murphy and his father, Joe, sitting in their seats at Game 4 of the 1999 World Series.
On that same day, their favorite player, Paul O'Neill, mourned his father's passing only hours before the Yankees won it all. In a moment, the two Yankees fans realized what a gift it was to watch -- together -- their team win. To this day, Murphy, a social worker, keeps that photograph in his desk at work.
"In terms of the Yankees, Yankee Stadium, it's the only baseball team I ever liked, so, yes, we don't have the same personal memories as over here," Murphy said, pointing to the new Yankee Stadium and adding that his father joined him for their final game at their favorite old ballpark Saturday. "But we fully intend on making many more of our own over there."
"It will be tough," Murphy continued, envisioning his final walk through Yankee Stadium's tunnels Saturday afternoon, which others will travel Sunday. "I wouldn't be surprised if there were some tears shed."
Jon Blau is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.